- Passenger numbers:
- Domestic: 21.6 million, +3.0% year-on-year;
- International: 47.7 million, +11.9%;
- South Korean carriers: 31.8 million, +13.0%;
- Foreign carriers: 15.9 million, +9.6%.
South Korea's int'l pax numbers up 12% in 2012, LCCs handles 3.6 million int'l pax
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Korea-Japan: LCCs are poised to overtake full service airlines for first time in Northeast Asia
For the first time in Northeast Asian aviation, low cost airlines are poised to overtake full service airlines in a significant way. The market concerned is that between Japan and Korea, where LCCs are rapidly growing, while full service airlines are decreasing capacity. Overall market size and visitor figures are at record highs. This refutes any legacy airline thinking that LCCs "steal" market share; LCCs are growing the market and becoming the future – as they already are in other parts in the world.
LCCs accounted for 1% of available seats between Japan and Korea in 2009, reached 37% in 2016, and so far in 2017 will account for 49% of the market. Limited airport data indicates that LCCs, operating at higher load factors, already transport more passengers than full service airlines, and by the end of 2017 LCCs should easily account for the majority of capacity.
LCCs already fly more airport pairs than their full service counterparts. The LCC development between Japan and Korea illustrates underlying LCC opportunity in Northeast Asia but also reflects on the importance of liberalisation, and for full service airlines to have efficient cost bases.
Korean LCCs: fleet surpasses 100 aircraft but market faces growth constraints; China the latest
Korea's LCC sector ended 2016 with 103 aircraft – the first time the collective fleet had crossed the 100 mark for what, until recently, was Northeast Asia's most dynamic market. Korea has six LCCs, with Jeju Air regaining a strong lead as the largest LCC. Half of Korea's LCC fleet has been added in the last three years. It is Northeast Asia's largest LCC market after China and, surprisingly, well ahead of Japan.
But overall Northeast Asia's LCC sector is pale in comparison to Southeast Asia, whose LCCs operate 74% more aircraft. Lion Air alone has more aircraft than all of Korea, while the AirAsia Group has more than all of China. Only three of East Asia's ten largest LCCs are in Northeast Asia.
And it is unclear how much further Korea's LCCs can grow in the short term. They have mostly flown domestically, and slots are now constrained. International opportunities are also challenging, and further complicated by the Jan-2017 decision of China to reject charter applications during the popular – and very profitable – Chinese New Year. Korea's LCCs needed liberalisation, not antagonism.